Rick’s heart was securely in his throat. He couldn’t bear knowing that she knew how he felt and that she didn’t feel the same way. Her cold eyes told him what he already knew.
She didn’t want him.
“I’ll go,” Rick said softly. “Let you enjoy your birthday without me here to mess it up. I’m sorry, Tare. I never wanted to hurt you. Ever. Be happy. It’s all I ever wanted for you.”
He walked through the kitchen, taking care to leave a wide gap between them. If he smelled her he might drop to his knees and beg for another chance. But that wouldn’t be fair to her.
“Why the fuck are you leaving if you want me happy?”
Rick froze. His blood roared in his ears, but he had no idea how it got there with his heart locked up. He couldn’t move though. He wanted to run, but her words wouldn’t let him. Especially if they meant what he hoped they meant.
So she moved for him. Right into his path. He had no choice but to look at her. Her dark brown eyes flared with golden light and her mouth was set in a firm line. He couldn’t tell if she was pissed off or not, but he’d put money on her being mad.
“I asked why you’re leaving if you want me happy. It sounds like you and I have some unfinished business. You’re just going to leave without talking to me?”
“You aren’t happy I’m still here. I stayed so we could talk, but I don’t think you want to hear anything I have to say.”
She shrugged. “You’re wrong. I’m very interested in what you have to say.”
Rick took a deep breath and looked around the room. Michelle and Aaron were watching them like a daytime drama. He wanted to talk to her alone. “In the bedroom?”
Tara shook her head. “Nope. Right here.”
“Fine. I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I said it was just sex last time. I’m sorry I bolted when you told me to. I’m sorry I never came back and begged for you to give me another chance. I’m sorry I ambushed you, even though it wasn’t all my fault. I’m sorry I kissed you yesterday. I’m sorry I stuck around today to make it better. And I’m sorry I ruined another birthday for you.”
Tara studied him. She pulled her lower lip between her teeth and nibbled on it like he was dying to do. She considered his words and took her time replying. “Thank you. That’s all I ever wanted to hear. Now I have something else to say, but for that we need to go in the other room.”
Rick followed her to his doom, grateful she was going to save the worst for when they were alone. He trudged down the hallway to his death, because having her tell him to leave and never come back would definitely kill him. They walked into the guest room and she went right to the bed. She picked up his duffle bag and started stuffing clothes into it. She wasn’t just going to kick him out, she was going to remove him herself. He leaned against the closed door and waited patiently. When she finished she handed him the bag. He nodded. “I’ll go. I could have packed myself though.”
She shook her head. “You’re going to put that bag in your car then get your ass back in here to celebrate my birthday. And after we’re done with dinner, you’re coming back to my place to give me a good birthday memory. And when you leave this time, it’s going to be so you can pack the rest of your shit and move back. Because if you really care about my happiness you won’t ever walk away again.”
Tara stalked over to him, her hips swaying gently with each step. “I said you’re staying with me.”
“I heard all that. Why?”
“Because I love you, you dumb ass. And you love me.”
His breath left in a whoosh. He pulled her in close and whispered against her hair, “Fuck, yeah I do. I’m not leaving you again.”
“Good. Because I’ll chase you down if you do.” Rick chuckled then groaned when she sunk her teeth into his ear. “And tonight you’re making up all this time away.”
He jerked when she rubbed her hips against his erection and pulled her close. He whispered in her ear, “Yes, ma’am,” then sealed the deal with a kiss that made him forget everything but her.